The Hispanic Leadership Council held its second forum featuring candidates for Abilene City Council Thursday night. Several of the questions centered on how the candidates would represent various minority communities around the city. Four of the five candidates vying for the open Place Six seat attended the forum and answered questions about everything from the behavior of city council members to economic development, crime, and affordable housing.
Moderator Kevin Pantoja offered a scenario in which families are spending 25% of their household income on rent, and asked what the candidates thought Abilene should do to solve the “high Price low quality housing issue in Abilene”.
Candidate Jessica Cantu said as a renter she can relate to her neighbors in that situation, and she said city officials could be taking steps to change the housing situation, “Looking at ways that we can bring in low income apartments,” she suggested, “looking at partnering with businesses that are willing to come in and build those things we need, and looking at giving them tax breaks or incentives for offering housing for these types of people is huge for our city and our economy.”
In response to the question about affordable housing, Charles Byrn took the opportunity to repeat his call for limited government.
“There’s too many restrictions that the city council puts on businesses, with the ordinances, with everything else that they do. We’ve got to cut ordinances and get government out of the way. If we get government out of the way I think we prosper, I think the private sector grows. And I also believe that this type of scenario doesn’t happen.”
Travis Craver echoed Byrn’s call for work to attract higher paying jobs, but used his two-minutes to describe potential benefits of public-private partnerships.
“I think partnerships with Abilene Housing Authority would be a great way to start. Not just the Abilene Housing Authority, but the Habitat for Humanity as well. And not just that, but open dialogue with other organizations that are maybe in our city itself, where we can have a dialogue, collaborate, and figure out some opportunities.”
David Turvaville also mentioned the need for higher paying jobs-and even suggested examining the minimum wage-but said the city could also try to keep rents affordable for lower-income residents, “The radical things we could try, I’m not saying I would, but would include rent-control, and allowing certain home vouchers, things like that.”
The only Candidate who didn’t answer this or any question asked at the Hispanic Leadership Council’s forum was Ron Konstantine. He was a no-show for the event at the Mockingbird branch of the Abilene Public Library.